Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Days of Awe Part 5

For many Jews, the essence of the Yom Kippur (this year on September 17TH) service takes place at the very beginning of the holiday, at the evening service that ushers in Yom Kippur. It is called Kol Nidre. The name is derived from the first major portion of the Yom Kippur prayers, dramatically chanted at the evening service. All the Torahs are taken out, the entire congregation stands, and the cantor chants this formula three times. While most people think that Kol Nidre is a prayer, it is actually a legal statement, as set forth below:

"All vows, oaths, and promises which we made to God were not able to fulfill--may all such vows between ourselves and God be annulled. May they be void and of no effect. May we be absolved of them and released from them. May these vows not be considered vows, these oaths not be considered oaths, and these promises not be considered promises."

This legal declaration was very important to the Jews. The tendency to make vows was very strong in ancient Israel. Quick and frequent vows inevitably involved in difficulties many who had made them, and thus evoked an earnest desire for release from such responsibilities. This gave rise to the rite of absolution from a vow. On account of the passionate nature of the Jews in general, however, and in view of their addiction to making vows, it might easily happen that these obligations would afterward be wholly forgotten and either not be kept or be violated unintentionally. The religious consciousness, which felt oppressed at the thought of the non-fulfilment of its solemn vows, accordingly devised a general and comprehensive formula of dispensation in the name of the assembled congregation at the beginning of the fast of Atonement. This declared that the petitioners, who were seeking reconciliation with God, solemnly retracted in His presence all vows and oaths which they had taken during the period intervening between the previous Day of Atonement and the present one, and made them null and void from the beginning, entreating in their stead pardon and forgiveness from the Heavenly Father.

To summarize, the Jews wanted to be released from any vows they may have made to God that they had not performed. They understood the power of speech. A major point to grasp is the power of the spoken word. Jews believe in the power of speech. So should we! They did not want to be in a position where they were in "default" before Elohim. We should examine our vows to Elohim. If we recall something we have promised Him and not done, ask to be released from the vow. We want to live our lives as obedient as we can before Him. Is there an unfulfilled promise to Elohim in your life? If so, what are you going to do about it?

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